The Inland Rail project has reached another “significant” milestone with Parkes MP Mark Coulton announcing a contract has been awarded to deliver detailed design work for the Parkes to Narromine section of the project.
WSP Mott McDonald will deliver engineering, design, environmental assessment and approval activities along the existing 107 kilometre rail corridor under a contract worth $10 million.
Mr Coulton said he would expect to see boots on the ground within 18 months.
“This is a significant announcement because it’s actually a positive step that’s going towards the actual project and with a project of this size a lot of the work [is] before actually a spike is driven … the construction in some ways will probably be one of the quickest sections of the whole project,” Mr Coulton said.
“With the higher mass trains, which should lead to cheaper tonnage freight rates, I think there’s great opportunities in towns like Narromine to encourage other businesses for value-adding of agricultural produce.
“There’s opportunities there for warehouse and distribution into the wider region and so the positive effects will be widespread.”
WSP Mott McDonald will also deliver the work for the $13 million Narrabri to North Star section of the project.
It is not a local company but Mr Coulton said “it’s my understanding that they will be engaging local contractors to do some of the work”.
Narromine Shire mayor Craig Davies echoed the hope that local people would be employed wherever possible across different stages of the project.
He said the “wonderful announcement” reflected the federal government’s “ongoing commitment” to the $8.4 billion Inland Rail – a project he labelled “the most visionary and significant project that’s ever happened in regional Australia”.
Councillor Davies said the council was working “very strongly” to identify the opportunities – “only limited by our imagination” – that the Inland Rail could bring.
He acknowledged nearby Parkes – also on the rail route – were “very advanced with their plans” to become a freight hub, but said “we’re a different market”.
“We'd become the gateway to the north and the west,” Cr Davies said. “The rail line here … continues out through Trangie to Cobar so we’d become the gateway to that area out there.
“It allows us to look at bringing stock from southern, central Queensland, from all the western parts of NSW and funnel it into Narromine, be value-adding, be value-adding to all the other agricultural commodities that can come down this way.”
Thousands of trucks thunder along the roads of the Narromine Shire every year, Cr Davies said, and there would be additional benefits to the local community by reducing those numbers.
“It will take so many trucks off the road that the cost of maintaining the roads will diminish,” he said.
“The socio-economic benefits to the shire will be huge, the benefits to road safety will be huge … it’s going to be the best thing that’s happened to our shire in decades.”